Residents Hear Plans for Green
Pinehurst residents studied and offered opinions Friday on design proposals for enhancing the Village Green.
Two public input meetings were held at the Fair Barn, which allowed residents to talk with each landscape architect that has submitted a plan for consideration and vote on which ones they liked. Mayor George Lane and members of the Village Green Commission, which is charged with making a final recommendation to the Village Council, fielded a variety of questions from members of the audience.
The morning session from 10 a.m. to noon was well-attended, with 92 residents signing in at the door. Another session was held from 5 to 7 p.m.
Commission Chairman Bill Wetmore was happy with the effort of the designers and the interest from the community.
"I'm really pleased, frankly, that the response (from the designers) has been the way it is," he said, "and they've come with, I think, some tremendous ideas. And they've thought it through carefully, and we gave them two months to do it. I think they're time has been well spent.
"I think to display it and get the community involved is key. It's their park. This is their land. So we want to be sure to get their ideas."
Wetmore said the resident input would "definitely" play a key role in the commission's final recommendation, and that neither his commission nor the council has made up its mind about what it wants to see happen. Commission member Tom Melhorn did say, however, that something would be done to the property.
The village has been studying for months the feasibility and desire to enhance the Green to make it more usable. About half of the property is occupied by the Village Chapel and Given Memorial Library, but 7.3 acres remains unoccupied and covered with pine trees.
Pros, Cons Aired
Some residents have expressed concerns about the hazardous sand paths that meander through the property, as well as an overall lack of maintenance that they think should be corrected.
Others, however, are opposed to any major changes to the Green and expressed their reservations at the meeting. One was especially concerned that the commission's public support survey had only 300 responses for a village of more than 10,000 residents, hinting it may not be representative of public sentiment.
Almost three-quarters of the respondents indicated they favored some enhancement to the Green.
The original Village Green Commission recommended to the council in May that some sort of enhancement would be desirable. The council subsequently voted to expand the commission, which has focused on design selection and fundraising since then.
Six Firms Offer Plans
Six landscape architecture firms, five of them based in Moore County, submitted proposals and all were present at the meeting. They are: Mark Wesley Parson Inc. of Southern Pines, KMH Design of Pinehurst, Richard Mandell Landscape Architecture of Pinehurst, Design Co. of Pinehurst, G. Bradley Design/Build of South-ern Pines and id8 Landscape Architecture of Raleigh.
Designers were asked to consider the history of Pinehurst, the philosophy of village architect Frederick Law Olmsted, possible uses for the property, neighboring property owners, safety, year-round use, maintenance costs and overall aesthetics and impact when crafting their proposals, according to commission member Melhorn.
Each architect had a different interpretation of those parameters, resulting in a variety of different designs. One common theme was the incorporation of buffer areas on the east side of the site so adjoining property owners would not be disturbed.
Glenn Bradley, who's working with fellow Southern Pines landscape architect Vince Zucchino, said they tried to emulate what the visionaries of the village were shooting for in their original design, as well as incorporating the chapel and library into it so property lines are masked.
It utilizes a center lawn, a strolling boulevard along the edge, and plantings from architect and naturalist Warren Manning's original library.
"It's a historical background utilizing Olmsted, Manning and Tufts as the three directors of how the Green was supposed to be installed and how the village of Pinehurst was built," he said. "We call it 'a clearing in the distance' because we want people from the commercial [area] to look through the space and see this brightened green. But the entirety of it stays within the historical context."
Bart O'Connor of Design Company believes his plan is the most modest of the ones submitted. It removes only 23 trees and places an 80-foot-wide circular lawn west of the the property's center, away from the neighboring homes. A concurrent 10-foot-wide circle contains benches and lighting. Pathways radiating from the lawn are also utilized, and elevated gardens greet visitors at their entry points.
"[It's] the one that least disrupts the existing [Green]," he said. "I'd also be surprised if we're not the least expensive."
Eric Wolfe of id8 Landscape Architecture actually submitted four different proposals, but featured one that had an "organically" shaped 1.5-acre lawn that opens to a garden adjacent to the downtown area at the northwest corner of the property in order to draw people in.
A smaller entrance is on the residential side. It replaces the infamous "sand parking lot" with a more efficient one. It aims to add some diversity in the wooded areas by adding native species of flora.
"We feel like it's a way of addressing that space and creating that lawn space that really just needs to be there," he said. "[Residents] can see it and be part of it, and then it doesn't take over all seven acres."
Options for Sand Lot
Mark Parson's design also moved the lawn area to the northwest corner, which gives visitors a panoramic view of downtown from the Holly Inn to the Theater Building.
Less than an acre, it replaces the existing sand parking lot with the lawn, and puts a new sand parking lot behind it. It alleviates the "ugliness" that currently exists while doing little to disturb what's already there. It gives residents and visitors a place to sit and enjoy the village center.
"It's a nice spot to take your laptop if you have wi-fi," he said.
Kevin Hardt of KMH Design said his plan was low-impact and had minimal costs. It places a 2.9-acre lawn in the center of the property with pathways winding around it instead of infringing on the open space, which he said was at the core of Olmsted's philosophy.
It doesn't incorporate any structures or a lot of other elements, which he thinks can evolve as the project takes shape. Much of his inspiration came from the "long meadow" in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, which Olmsted designed.
"This really answers the question and solves the problem from a cost standpoint and from an environmental impact [standpoint]," he said.
Like the others, Richard Mandell said his design incorporates Olmsted's philosophy, including the blending of formal and natural elements. It makes the village stone a focal point, which was unique among the designs. It incorporates a gazebo and a "gathering circle" for public events on the southern side of the lawn. It also replaces the existing sand parking lot with a new 80-space sand lot.
"There are a lot of characteristics throughout this," he said "There's a lot of detail as to what Olmsted did and how he taught his [successors]."
Melhorn said that the commission has tried to make the process as transparent as possible.
"We said we wanted the input of citizens," Melhorn said. "That's the purpose of the enhancements -- for their use and enjoyment."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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